How can a game which looks so lovely, with its giant alien flowers and plants in the background, and mysterious silhouetted machinery and dwellings in the foreground, all fantastically lit and darkened with lanterns, lasers, mist and smoke, also look so terrible with its woeful character portraits? It’s like the game’s amazing scenery artist got his 8 year old daughter to draw them.
Thankfully, that doesn’t matter, as Knytt Underground is a great Jet Set Willy clone for a more modern game player. There’s nimble platforming and wall climbing, a turn-into-a-ball mechanic which you can use to bounce higher and further (losing some control in the process). There’s also several sparkly things you can collect that temporarily turn you into a glowing light that can, depending on the colour, shoot upwards like a star, do a sort of double jump, or shoot enemies. There are timed switches, doors to find keys for, and fetch quests aplenty.
And a MASSIVE map. Not only is each screen pretty large, with your character being just a few pixels tall, there are supposedly 1800 of them to navigate. The map on the gamepad has tiny, tiny squares for each room. Chapters 1 and 2 start you off with few abilities and a small map, but Chapter 3, where I am now is immense. I can see several locations on the map where I have to pick up some sort of set of artefacts, but the route is blind and with so many dead ends and diversions I’ve hardly come close to any of them yet.